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Chapter VIII.—The Vagaries of Basilides and Valentinus as to Fear Being the Cause of Things.
Here the followers of Basilides, interpreting this expression, say, “that the Prince,22372237 Viz., of the angels, who according to them was Jehovah, the God of the Jews. having heard the speech of the Spirit, who was being ministered to, was struck with amazement both with the voice and the vision, having had glad tidings beyond his hopes announced to him; and that his amazement was called fear, which became the origin of wisdom, which distinguishes classes, and discriminates, and perfects, and restores. For not the world alone, but also the election, He that is over all has set apart and sent forth.”
And Valentinus appears also in an epistle to have adopted such views. For he writes in these very words: “And as22382238 Instead of ὡς περίφοβος of the text, we read with Grabe ὡσπερεὶ φόβος. terror fell on the angels at this creature, because he uttered things greater than proceeded from his formation, by reason of the being in him who had invisibly communicated a germ of the supernal essence, and who spoke with free utterance; so also among the tribes of men in the world, the works of men became terrors to those who made them,—as, for example, images and statues. And the hands of all fashion things to bear the name of God: 356for Adam formed into the name of man inspired the dread attaching to the pre-existent man, as having his being in him; and they were terror-stricken, and speedily marred the work.”
But there being but one First Cause, as will be shown afterwards, these men will be shown to be inventors of chatterings and chirpings. But since God deemed it advantageous, that from the law and the prophets, men should receive a preparatory discipline by the Lord, the fear of the Lord was called the beginning of wisdom, being given by the Lord, through Moses, to the disobedient and hard of heart. For those whom reason convinces not, fear tames; which also the Instructing Word, foreseeing from the first, and purifying by each of these methods, adapted the instrument suitably for piety. Consternation is, then, fear at a strange apparition, or at an unlooked-for representation—such as, for example, a message; while fear is an excessive wonderment on account of something which arises or is. They do not then perceive that they represent by means of amazement the God who is highest and is extolled by them, as subject to perturbation and antecedent to amazement as having been in ignorance. If indeed ignorance preceded amazement; and if this amazement and fear, which is the beginning of wisdom, is the fear of God, then in all likelihood ignorance as cause preceded both the wisdom of God and all creative work, and not only these, but restoration and even election itself. Whether, then, was it ignorance of what was good or what was evil?
Well, if of good, why does it cease through amazement? And minister and preaching and baptism are [in that case] superfluous to them. And if of evil, how can what is bad be the cause of what is best? For had not ignorance preceded, the minister would not have come down, nor would have amazement seized on “the Prince,” as they say; nor would he have attained to a beginning of wisdom from fear, in order to discrimination between the elect and those that are mundane. And if the fear of the pre-existent man made the angels conspire against their own handiwork, under the idea that an invisible germ of the supernal essence was lodged within that creation, or through unfounded suspicion excited envy, which is incredible, the angels became murderers of the creature which had been entrusted to them, as a child might be, they being thus convicted of the grossest ignorance. Or suppose they were influenced by being involved in foreknowledge. But they would not have conspired against what they foreknew in the assault they made; nor would they have been terror-struck at their own work, in consequence of foreknowledge, on their perceiving the supernal germ. Or, finally, suppose, trusting to their knowledge, they dared (but this also were impossible for them), on learning the excellence that is in the Pleroma, to conspire against man. Furthermore also they laid hands on that which was according to the image, in which also is the archetype, and which, along with the knowledge that remains, is indestructible.
To these, then, and certain others, especially the Marcionites, the Scripture cries, though they listen not, “He that heareth Me shall rest with confidence in peace, and shall be tranquil, fearless of all evil.”22392239 Prov. i. 33.
What, then, will they have the law to be? They will not call it evil, but just; distinguishing what is good from what is just. But the Lord, when He enjoins us to dread evil, does not exchange one evil for another, but abolishes what is opposite by its opposite. Now evil is the opposite of good, as what is just is of what is unjust. If, then, that absence of fear, which the fear of the Lord produces, is called the beginning of what is good,22402240 The text reads κακῶν. Lowth conjectures the change, which we have adopted, καλῶν. fear is a good thing. And the fear which proceeds from the law is not only just, but good, as it takes away evil. But introducing absence of fear by means of fear, it does not produce apathy by means of mental perturbation, but moderation of feeling by discipline. When, then, we hear, “Honour the Lord, and be strong: but fear not another besides Him,”22412241 Prov. vii. 2. we understand it to be meant fearing to sin, and following the commandments given by God, which is the honour that cometh from God. For the fear of God is Δέος [in Greek]. But if fear is perturbation of mind, as some will have it that fear is perturbation of mind, yet all fear is not perturbation. Superstition is indeed perturbation of mind; being the fear of demons, that produce and are subject to the excitement of passion. On the other hand, consequently, the fear of God, who is not subject to perturbation, is free of perturbation. For it is not God, but falling away from God, that the man is terrified for. And he who fears this—that is, falling into evils—fears and dreads those evils. And he who fears a fall, wishes himself to be free of corruption and perturbation. “The wise man, fearing, avoids evil: but the foolish, trusting, mixes himself with it,” says the Scripture; and again it says, “In the fear of the Lord is the hope of strength.”22422242 Prov. xiv. 16, 26.
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